Pain of humiliating defeat can be a Blazers spur against Flyers
THE pain of their heaviest defeat of the season can be the big motivation for Derby Trailblazers as they return to Moorways for a VCARS Division One match against Bristol Academy Flyers tonight (7.30pm).
The game, Derby's first at home for five weeks, will be followed by the second match of a weekend double-header away to Team Northumbria tomorrow (4pm).
Bristol have won both encounters with Trailblazers this season but it was the league meeting – an 85-54 battering in November – that still sticks in the memory of assistant coach Steve Baxter.
"The last time we played them they pretty much humiliated us, beating us by 31 points," said Baxter.
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"That was personally my biggest defeat since being involved with the Trailblazers and it wasn't a good feeling knowing we didn't show up and didn't perform anywhere near to our talent level.
"Since that match, we have only lost one league game by more than 10 points, so I do believe we have made big improvements.
"I hope the players take that defeat personally and have a hunger to prove they are better than they performed that night. I want to see energy and passion and a desire to do well for the team, themselves and our supporters.
"We've displayed that more recently in narrow losses to Reading and Tees Valley and if we can perform how we did for periods in those games for nearer to 40 minutes than we did then, we can be a successful basketball team."
Derby and Bristol have developed a close rivalry going back to their days together in the lower leagues. Their paths have seemed to inevitably cross in many big games through the years and many of the names on the Flyers' team list have become very familiar to Trailblazers fans.
The fact that the likes of Greg Streete, Doug McLaughlin-Williams and Enrique Garcia – plus the injured Tyrone Treasure – still form the core of the Bristol team is one of the big reasons why they have been consistently successful, says Baxter.
"To me, Bristol are the blueprint to success in this league. They are consistently one of the best teams and that's because they build on good experienced players with a mix of some of the best young talent in the country," he added.
Flyers go into the game in fifth place and are only one win behind second-placed Northumbria, who have been one of this season's surprise packages.
"I think Northumbria are a team who are getting the maximum out of their squad this season. Coach Steutel has done a fantastic job in getting his team into the position they are, in their first year in the league," said Baxter.
Trailblazers' chances may rest on whether or not point guard Nick Rose has recovered from the ankle injury that forced his early exit at Westminster last weekend.